Metro Weekly

10 Great Things To Do This Week in DC (and Beyond)

From Wunder Garten's Oktoberfest to Walkingtown DC, here's our handpicked recommendations for your week!

The 51st State

The 51st State

Eleven D.C. residents who were inspired to become activists as a result of this summer’s protests for racial justice and criminal reform are at the core of a new 60-minute docudrama from Arena Stage. As its title suggests, The 51st State weaves in the long-simmering quest for D.C. statehood and sovereignty.

The film marks the third produced by the prominent local theater organization in the pandemic, a time when stage artists aren’t able to work and pursue their craft as usual. Rather that direct a live stage production, Arena’s Molly Smith has created a film starring veteran local actors, shot in various locales around D.C., each portraying a different contemporary local activist, from an artist who helped create Black Lives Matter Plaza to an older couple moved to take up the cause.

The cast includes Sherri L. Edelen, Michael Glenn, James J. Johnson, Joy Jones, Jason B. McIntosh, Gary L. Perkins III, Todd Scofield, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Dani Stoller, Justin Weaks, and Jacob Yeh. Their portrayals derive from the narrative monologues developed by an esteemed group of playwrights, a lineup including Lady Dane Figueroa, Farah Lawal Harris, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Teshonne Powell, Otis Ramsey-Zoe, Gregory Keng Strasser, Deb Sivigny, Mary Hall Surface, Aria Velz, and Karen Zacarías. The 51st State also features original music composed by DJ and sound designer Nick “tha 1 da” Hernandez. Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 16. Visit www.arenastage.org. –DR

Summerstage: Norah Jones — Photo: Diane Russo

Summerstage Jubilee

Instead of an exclusive in-person gala and outdoor concert in Central Park, this year New York’s City Parks Foundation will present a livestream open to anyone anywhere, and featuring an impressive roster of musical artists and celebrities. Tennis legend Billie Jean King will be joined by Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s former bandleader, to share stories at the Summerstage Jubilee in between performances from Rufus Wainwright, Sting, Trey Anastasio, Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones, Emily King, PJ Morton, Leslie Odom Jr., and additional “special guests.”

The event is free, but organizers of #SummerStageAnywhere “Songs & Stories” event welcome donations to help support all of the free programming the foundation offers every year in parks across all five boroughs of the Big Apple — not only the signature concerts in Central Park that have become a summertime staple, but also free tennis and golf classes and experiential, environmental science-based lessons, among many others. Thursday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. Follow @NYCSummerstage on YouTube or @SummerStageNYC on Facebook and Twitch, or visit www.cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.

Michael Urie

Will on the Hill

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle perform alongside some of the city’s finest professional actors in a send-up of both contemporary politics and Romeo and Juliet. Presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company as a benefit for its arts education and community engagement programming, this year’s annual Will on the Hill becomes a virtual, pay-what-you-will event open to any and all.

Michael Urie, Holly Twyford, E. Faye Butler, Felicia Curry, Christopher Michael Richardson, and Gregory Wooddell are the actors enlisted to help bring to life Nat Cassidy’s Will on the Hill…or Won’t They? Described as a comedy openly questioning whether celebrating the Bard during these turbulent times makes sense, the play focuses on two congressional aides of opposing parties who prove to be well-versed in both the language of Shakespeare and the language of love.

Ultimately, the star-crossed lovers and their clandestine bipartisan bond are put to the test when tasked with trying to unite the bickering cast preparing for the show within the show. Comprised of elected officials volunteering their time and talent, the cast includes Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Angus King (I-Maine), Democratic Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Donna Shalala, Ted Deutch, and Lois Frankel of Florida, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Brandon Boyle of Pennsylvania, Susan Davis of California, André Carson of Indiana, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Chellie Pingree of Maine, Dina Titus of Nevada, Filemon Vela of Texas, and Peter Welch of Vermont, and Republican Representatives Kay Granger and Pete Olson of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Carol Miller of West Virginia.

Also scheduled to appear are Dame Karen Pierce, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States and Ian Lidell-Grainger, member of Parliament in the UK, plus surprise appearances by “additional special guests.” Monday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., with a VIP Virtual Pre-Show Reception starting at 6 p.m. Visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org/WillontheHill.

Wunder Garten Oktoberfest — Photo: Brandon Bayton

Wunder Garten’s 6th Oktoberfest Party

Now that we’ve made it past Labor Day, we’re fast approaching that time of year when there’s an Oktoberfest celebration happening in seemingly every other neighborhood, if not every other block. Many of these German-inspired festivals run all weekend long, over multiple weekends — and that is certainly the case with the 6th annual event launching next Friday, Sept. 18, at NoMa’s popular climate-controlled outdoor beer garden.

Over the course of five weekends, the focus will be on select German and German-style beers, from the classic Märzen-style brews from Bavarian breweries including Spaten, Franziskaner, and Hofbräuhaus, to special Oktoberfest concoctions from several of America’s leading craft breweries, including Devil’s Backbone, Port City Brewing, and Great Lakes Brewing. Options including beer tasting flights and one-liter pours in souvenir steins.

Food will be available from Caliburger, a Bavarian-style delicatessen, and La Buena Empanadas, plus a pig roast courtesy of local BBQ-favorite The Federalist Pig every Friday between 3 and 9 p.m. Meanwhile, Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. are dedicated to patrons’ canine companions via Dogtoberfest, where costumes are encouraged. Saturdays bring more costumes plus scheduled activities ranging from raffles to Steinholding contests to “other games suited for our socially distant environment.”

There are guidelines, however: mandated face masks, proper social distancing, groupings of six seated customers maximum, and cashless transactions. Oktoberfest runs weekends to Oct. 18. Tables for up to six are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, while cabanas for up to six can be rented in advance. Wunder Garten is at 1101 First St. NE. Visit www.wundergartendc.com.

Beau Travail — Photo courtesy of Criterion Collection

Beau Travail

Barry Jenkins has called Beau Travail “my favorite film by my favorite filmmaker.” The Oscar-winning director of Moonlight is hardly the only fan of Claire Denis and what many consider to be the French filmmaker’s masterwork — although truth be told Beau Travail is almost as narratively perplexing as it is visually spellbinding.

Loosely based on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, and incorporating music from Benjamin Britten’s operatic adaptation, the 1999 film is framed as a story about a French Foreign Legion sergeant who becomes obsessed with a striking young recruit new to his unit of men stationed in Djibouti, East Africa. It’s the way Denis goes about telling the story that is most remarkable, particularly all the nonverbal things relayed and implied through Agnès Godard’s evocative cinematography concerning masculinity, intimacy, and desire.

Beau Travail is probably best remembered for its many lingering shots of the half-naked legionnaires in synchronized motion carrying out their rigorous drills and training rituals. It’s likely to be even more ravishing now, viewed in a new 4K restoration from Janus Films. The AFI Silver Theatre is among select theaters nationwide offering and benefiting from virtual screenings of what New York Times critic Stephen Holden characterized as “a film that has the sweep and esthetic power of a full-length ballet.” Tickets are $12 for a 72-hour stream. Visit www.afi.com/Silver.

John Cameron Mitchell — Photo: Sutton Hannigan

John Cameron Mitchell: New American Dream

Last week, the Tony-winning creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch issued New American Dream (Part One), an album of nine new songs written in collaboration with friends and fellow progressive-minded artists. According to the official press release, the goal was “to use the raw resources of a challenged America and a threatened world to create empathy and justice through art and beauty.” Among those featured alongside Mitchell on the album are Alynda Segarra of the band Hooray for the Riff Raff, Leland, Peppermint, Melania Brown, Ezra Furman, Our Lady J, Jamie Stewart of the band Xiu Xiu, Amber Martin, and Cassie Watson.

Proceeds from sales benefit three specific charities: Burritos Not Bombs, a hunger relief organization in Mexico City, the San Francisco-based Transgender Gender-Variant and Intersex Justice Project, and the Connecticut-based Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund. Also getting an indirect boost is the organization Spread The Vote, courtesy of a PSA spot written by Mitchell that encourages young people to register as poll workers on election day. The song “New American Dream” has been released as the first single, complete with an “outrageous homemade iPhone-shot video” that is as punk rock (and anti-Republican) as they come.

In the days immediately following the election, Mitchell plans to issue New American Dream (Part Two), featuring a new batch of songs and additional collaborators, including Hedwig co-creator and composer Stephen Trask, Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel, recent American Idol finalist Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, Bitch of Bitch and Animal, Theo Hilton of Nana Grizol, Peter Yanowitz, Billy Hough, and more. New American Dream (Part One) is available on Bandcamp at a suggested price of $15, while (Part Two) can be pre-ordered for $10. Visit www.newamericandreammusic.com.

Walkingtown DC

Walkingtown DC

Every September, Cultural Tourism DC offers a series of free, guided walking tours in neighborhoods throughout the city and offered in “bite-size” lunchtime and after-work “happy hour” formats as well as longer weekend outings. That remains the case this year, although the 2020 slate of tours will step off virtually through Zoom.

The series launches on Saturday, Sept. 12, with tours including “Black Lives Matter Plaza: Its Short Colorful History,” an outing led by tour guide Brenda Turner featuring a sample of signs left behind by protestors and a look at how Lafayette Park has changed, and “Rainbow Washington: DC’s Queer History-The People, Places, Events,” a review of pivotal moments and scenes in the struggle for equal rights dating back to the Revolutionary War as led by guide Ella Schiralli.

Highlights to come on Sunday, Sept. 13, include “The Smithsonian: Tracing the Arc of American Architecture,” a look, led by Carolyn Muraskin, into the unique architecture of the buildings that collectively comprise the “Nation’s Attic,” and “Hidden History on the Hill,” a tour, led by Tony Spadafora, of the Barracks Row and Navy Yard neighborhoods where John Philip Sousa was born and became a musical legend. Among the 20-plus tours in this year’s series, many of which are offered multiple times, other notable titles include “Walt Whitman in DC,” “Brookland: Rural, Suburban, and Urban,” “Unexpected Places to Find Awesome Art in DC,” and “The Mansions of Meridian Hill.” Through Sept. 20. Free, but space limited and advance registration required. Visit www.culturaltourismdc.org.

Hill Center: Mother Sauce

Hill Center’s Virtual Mother Sauce Series

A century ago, influential French chef Auguste Escoffier refined and narrowed the list of fundamental sauces said to be the sources or jumping-off points for the many variations in both sweet and savory form and used in cuisines the world over. Learning how to make Escoffier’s five “mother sauces” is paramount to fine cooking, and the Hill Center is featuring a tutorial in creating them as Chef Wendi James leads participants in making one mother sauce every Monday over the next five weeks.

The series kicks off on Monday, Sept. 14 with Sauce Espagnole, a strong, rich, brown reduction responsible for derivatives ranging from demi-glace to mushroom sauce. The series continues on Sept. 21 with Velouté, a velvety, light stock-based blend that is the source for most variations on gravy, standard wine sauces and reductions, and the paprika-enriched sauces used in national dishes from Hungary (goulash) and Portugal (chanfana).

Béchamel, a milk-based sauce commonly used in lasagna and especially known from the cheese-enriched variations that put the comfort in staples ranging from mac and cheese to many traditional American-style casseroles, follows on Sept. 28. Hollandaise, the lemony, buttery egg emulsion sauce used in eggs Benedict and adapted to make everything from Béarnaise sauce to that basic of condiments, mayonnaise is scheduled for Oct. 5.

The series concludes on Oct. 12 with the queen of them all, Sauce Tomate, a tomato-based sauce that virtually every culture has modified and made its own. All classes start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for each class or $80 for the full series, including access to class video recordings. Visit www.hillcenterdc.org.

Lucky Buns Crab Feasts

Lucky Buns’ Crabs and Crushes at Union Market

A few years before Alex McCoy significantly upped the burger game in D.C. as the original chef of Duke’s Grocery on 17th Street — and well before he made a bit of a national splash with stints on the Food Network — McCoy worked at a classic Maryland crab house off the Chesapeake Bay. In the decade since, the D.C. native has launched other food concepts, most notably a second burger haven, the more internationally inspired Lucky Buns in the former L’Enfant Café space on 18th Street.

But McCoy has continued serving up Maryland’s signature shellfish at regular pop-ups in the city. Earlier this summer, he debuted his biggest crab-centric pop-up yet when he took over the patio space outside Union Market’s food hall, now home to another Lucky Buns outpost. The summertime shucking special proved so successful, it has inspired an even bigger reprise for fall feasting with a move to the larger Dock 5 space behind Union Market. There, socially distanced guests with face masks can partake in an all-you-can-eat bonanza of steamed Maryland crabs plus fried chicken, corn, and fixings for $50 per person.

Signature orange and grapefruit crushes will also be available for purchase a la carte along with draft beers and cocktails. Available Wednesdays through Sundays in two-hour sessions at 6, 8:30, and 10:30 p.m. Through Oct. 4. Union Market is at 1309 5th St. NE. Reservations required. Call 202-506-1713 or visit www.unionmarketdc.com.

Emily Dickinson

Tell It Slant Poetry Festival

Emily Dickinson is the chief focus of this annual festival, formerly known as the Amherst Poetry Festival but renamed last year in homage to the 19th century writer and Amherst native and her famous poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

In recent years, chiefly through the feature film Wild Nights With Emily from 2018 and Apple TV+’s Peabody Award-winning historical dramedy Dickinson, more people have come to learn what an increasing number of scholars consider to be Dickinson’s truth: That Susan Huntington Gilbert was not just her best friend who later became her sister-in-law, but also her passionate, lifelong romantic lover. Now, thanks to the pandemic, more people have a chance to participate in this year’s free, virtual festival, which honors Dickinson’s poetic legacy by striving to represent the diversity of the contemporary American poetry landscape.

Produced by the Emily Dickinson Museum, the 8th Annual Tell It Slant Festival features headliners Franny Choi, a queer Korean-American poet, playwright, and teacher, Jericho Brown, a professor at Emory University and writer/author who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for poetry (for his collection The Tradition), Shayla Lawson, an Amherst College teacher, poet, and author/essayist (This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope), genre-defying folk/jazz/soul musician Kimaya Diggs, and Ada Limón, an award-winning poet and writer/author (The Carrying) based in Kentucky.

The festival kicks off on Monday, Sept. 14, with the first of seven sessions offering a digital rendering of the Emily Dickinson Marathon, the epic reading of all 1,789 of Dickinson’s poems featuring a handful of collaborators, including D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library. The festival also offers behind-the-scenes tours of two libraries’ Dickinson archives, intimate guided creative sessions immersing participants in the Dickinson Homestead, a poetry open mike, and a Dickinson poetry discussion group, among others. The festival closes with the seventh and final session in the Emily Dickinson Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 3 p.m. Free, but with limited space per event. Donations are encouraged to support the festival’s future. Visit www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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